Double X, Hitting Home Runs and Some Guy You Never Heard of

By Blaidd Drwg

Part one of a two parter! In the immortal words of Mel Allen, “How about that?”

In the history of baseball, there have been 43 instances of a player hitting 50 or more home runs in a season. For reference, here is the breakdown of those seasons:

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished
73 1
70 1
66 1
65 1
64 1
63 1
62 0
61 1
60 1
59 1
58 4
57 2
56 3
55 0
54 7
53 1
52 6
51 5
50 6


Here is the same list with one additional column – Number of Times Lead League. That column represents the number of times that the corresponding number of home runs was the highest total in the AL or NL in its respective season.

Number of HRs Number of Times Accomplished Number of Times Lead League
73 1 1
70 1 1
66 1 0
65 1 1
64 1 0
63 1 0
61 1 1
60 1 1
59 1 1
58 4 3*
57 2 1
56 3 3
54 7 6
53 1 1
52 6 5
51 5 5
50 6 3


The asterisk is an unusual case – in 1997, thanks to a mid-season trade, Mark McGwire was in the unusual position of leading MLB in home runs with 58 without leading one of the individual leagues – he would hit 34 for the A’s, which ranked 9th in the AL in 1997, and 24 for the Cardinals, which ranked outside of the top 10. For the sake of this article we won’t consider that one.

This leaves 9 times that a player topped 50 HR’s without leading the league, which leads to my favorite list, the players who did not lead the league when hitting 50 HRs:

Year Player HR Rank Leader (HR)
1998 Sammy Sosa 66 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
2001 Sammy Sosa 64 2nd (NL) Barry Bonds (73)
1999 Sammy Sosa 63 2nd (NL) Mark McGwire (65)
2001 Luis Gonzalez 57 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)
1961 Mickey Mantle 54 2nd (NL) Roger Maris (61)
2002 Jim Thome 52 2nd (AL) Alex Rodriguez (57)
1996 Brady Anderson 50 2nd (AL) Mark McGwire (52)
1938 Jimmie Foxx 50 2nd (AL) Hank Greenberg (58)
1998 Greg Vaughn 50 3rd (NL) Mark McGwire (70)


I feel bad for Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn. They both had the misfortune of hitting a ton of HRs in years where two other player hit a ton more home runs than they did. Of course, then you have Sammy Sosa. Sosa lead the league twice in home runs – in 2000 and 2002, with totals of 50 and 49 and managed to lead the NL in HRs exactly 0 times in years that he hit 60+ home runs. Talk about bad timing.

Double X, also known as  Beast - and a beast he was.
Double X, also known as Beast – and a beast he was.

The player that intrigued me the most is Jimmie Foxx and his 1938 campaign. In that season, Foxx would reach 50 home runs for the second time, to go along with 139 runs, 197 hits, 175 RBI, 119 BB, a .349 BA, 1.166 OPS, 182 OPS+ and 7.6 WAR to win his 3rd MVP award, missing out on the triple crown in only the home run category. It would be the second time that Foxx missed out in one category – he finished 2nd in the AL to Dale Alexander in 1932 in BA by .003 points. You shouldn’t feel too bad for Foxx though, he did win the 1932 MVP award (posting an insane 10.5 WAR, a number that has only been reached 36 times in baseball history) and he did manage to secure the Triple Crown the following season as well as also winning an MVP.  The 1930’s were good for offense, what can I say, but Foxx is still arguably one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. If that isn’t enough, Foxx was also good enough to appear as a pitcher in 11 games in his career, including 9 in 1945, including 2 starts, when he was 37 years old. He posted a 1.59 ERA (albeit with not so stellar peripheral stats). It is also worth noting that when Foxx retired, he was #2 on the all-time career HR list, 170ish HR’s behind some guy named Ruth. For nearly 20 years, the 500 HR club was Foxx, Ruth and Mel Ott.

So why is this part 1 of a 2 parter? Well, it goes back to the guy who had a slightly higher BA in 1932 than Jimmie Foxx. Part 2 is going to answer the question I had when I was writing this piece – “Who the hell is Dale Alexander and why have I never heard of him?”

Memories of Monte Irvin

By Blaidd Drwg

Yesterday I as saddened to hear of the passing of Monte Irvin on the 11th of January at age 96. If you don’t know who Irvin was, he was a former NY Giant great and the first baseball Hall of Famer I ever met, back in the early 1980’s at a baseball card show at St. Peter’s College in New Jersey (I was probably 10 or 11 at the time). He appeared with another former Giant teammate Dusty Rhodes. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the both of them for about 20 minutes to talk baseball since there was no one there getting autographs. I remember Rhodes talking about how he became a tugboat captain after he retired from baseball and Irvin talked about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, which I knew very little about at the time. Thanks to Irvin, I became interested in Negro League history, which at the time, was not easy to find any information about and it is directly responsible for me being a long time supporter of the Negro League Museum in KC, a place that I sadly have not yet been to. Rhodes passed away in 2009 (not before I had a series of correspondences with him about his post-baseball career and I still have the letters that he sent – yep, we corresponded old school and I do have an unhealthy obsession with tugboats) and with Irvin passing on the 11th, we lost yet another link to the Negro Leagues.

I am sure that Irvin had no idea that a 20 minute conversation he had with a kid 30 years ago would have such an impact, and, frankly, I had not realized it myself until I reflected on my interaction with Irvin. A friend of mine sent me a link to an article on about Irvin’s passing, written by someone who actually knew him. I would suggest reading the article, but I wanted to include a snippet of it just to make a point about how much the Negro Leagues meant to Irvin:

There was a moment about a decade ago when I researched all the Hall of Famers who played in Newark for the New York Yankees farm team called the Bears, the Eagles and the turn-of-the-century Newark Indians. Joe DiVincenzo, the Essex County Executive had hung plaques for a ring of honor just above façade behind home plate at the Bears and Eagles baseball stadium in Newark.

Monte was one of them. He was in a wheelchair, and afterward I walked over to him and hugged him. Monte, being Monte, the conversation went like this:

“Listen,” he said, “I’ve got to tell you something. You can’t die.”

“Ever?” I said.

“Never,” he said. ”You are the last writer to ever see us play in the Negro Leagues. You die and that leaves nobody to tell our story. The kids won’t even believe we had a league. Don’t die.”

So in honor of Irvin’s passing, go read a book on tugboats, or the a book I highly recommend on the Negro Leagues, “When Only the Ball Was White.” Better yet, go make a donation to the Negro League Museum – a place that would not existed if it were not for the efforts of guys like Buck O’Neil and Monte Irvin and lets make sure a very important piece of American history does not get forgotten once those who were part of it are all gone.

TBT: September 20th, 2009

By Blaidd Drwg

I was looking through some old scorecards that I have saved and I came across one from 2009, September 20th to be exact, for a game between the Mariners and Yankees. That season, the Yankees would win 103 games and the World Series and the Mariners would win 85 through shear dumb luck (they had a -52 run differential but happened to go 35-20 in one run games.) It was a stellar pitching matchup between Ian Snell, who seemed to managed to stay in the M’s rotation despite being horrible and Joba Chamberlain, who was a mega-prospect at the time and the Yankees were in the process of trying to turn him into a starter.

The Yankees lineup was an impressive one:
Jeter, Damon, Teixieria, Arod, Matsui, Posada, Cano, Melky Cabrera, Gardner

The Mariners, not so much:
Ichiro, Gutierrez, Lopez, Griffey, Beltre, Hall, Carp, Moore, Jack Wilson

So predictably, the Mariners jumped all over Chamberlain, scoring 7 runs in 2 innings and chasing him out of the game. Somehow Snell managed to limit the Yankees to 1 run in 5 1/3 innings despite 4 hits and 4 walks allowed. The M’s bullpen shut down the Yankees the rest of the way and the final score was 7-1.

Why is this game of note, well, because the pitching line for the Yankees bullpen, specifically Sergio Mitre (who was the only Yankees pitcher to appear after Chamberlain was chased) caught my eye:

IP H R ER BB SO Pitches-Strikes
Mitre 5 1 0 0 1 5 65-43

There was an error on the scorecard which I had Mitre throwing 5 no-hit innings, which is why I was even interested. If you don’t remember Mitre, he was a Cubs and Marlins prospect who never quite put it together in the bigs. Coming into the game on the 20th, Mitre had been the Yankees 5th starter and had a 7.63 ERA and had given up 18 runs in his last 2 starts.

Pitching down 6 runs in this game, Mitre got Ichiro to bounce out, gave up a single to Guti, struck out Lopez, walked Griffey and then ended the inning on a Beltre fielder’s choice in his first inning of work. Nothing spectacular and then he proceeded to do what you expect that Mariners lineup to do the rest of the game – nothing. He put down the next 12 hitters in order. It is how he ended the game that I thought was interesting – the last 4 hitters he faced were strikeouts. So Mitre recorded 13 consecutive outs – the first 9 were on balls in play and the last 4 were strikeouts. Nothing earthshaking or anything that is ever going to appear in a record book, but just one of those little weird things about baseball that I love. I reminded me of this game that I wrote about a few years back.

The Mariners and Their Playoff Chances

By Blaidd Drwg

There are Mariners fans out there who are still entertaining hopes of getting into the playoffs despite a 50 – 59 (as of August 5th) record and being 7 games back from the 2nd wildcard spot. Why not. The AL is very mediocre this year and the 2 teams that currently possess the wild card spots are sporting .533 and .523 winning percentages, so one good win streak puts they M’s into contention.

The problem here is that the Mariners need to pass 7 teams just to reach the 2nd playoff spot and that is no easy feat with 53 games remaining, although it has been done before. Here is how the M’s remaining schedule breaks down:

15 games vs. teams with a record worse than the M’s – 9 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Boston and 3 vs. Colorado. They really need to come out of those 15 games with a 10-5 record.

13 games vs. Texas – the Rangers are currently 5 games ahead of the M’s in the standings (and 6 ahead in the loss column) and significantly upgraded their starting pitching, so making the assumption that both teams play at the same level for the rest of the season (let’s just say .500 for the sake of argument), the M’s need to go 9-4 just to pass them in the standings.

7 games vs. Chicago – it is surprising that the White Sox are still in this, just 4.5 games back of the 2nd wild card despite being horrible. This is the team that the M’s first need to pass, but once again, despite being just 2.5 games back of the Pale Hose, the M’s are 4 back in the loss column (how have the M’s managed to play that many more games than the other teams in the league?) It would take a 5-2 record in those 7 games to catch the Sox assuming they both play .500 ball the rest of the way.

3 games vs Baltimore – the O’s are 6 games up on the M’s and just 1 game back of the 2nd wild card. They do have a brutal schedule the rest of the way though – 28 of their remaining 55 games are against teams with better records and that doesn’t count the 14 games against teams that are within 2 games of them in the wildcard race. The M’s probably need a sweep here or at least winning the series and then hope that the O’s split most of the games against the teams that are ahead of the M’s in the wild card race. If the O’s go into freefall or go on a tear, it will pretty much end the Mariners season.

6 games vs Houston – the Astros lead the M’s by 10 games in the division and are 2 up on the first wild card spot. The ‘Stros have been tough to figure out so these games don’t help the M’s other than potentially swapping the Angels and Astros as division leader/1st wild card team. A couple of important series, but the M’s would do far more damage to themselves if they come out of those 6 with a losing record than the Astros would.

6 games vs. LA – They are up 8 on the M’s for the first wild card spot. Same as the Astros – the 2 series against the Angels could do more harm than good to the M’s chances, depending on how they play out.

3 games vs. KC – Same as the LA and Houston series, but just 3 games so it wouldn’t be the end of the world for the M’s as long as they don’t get swept. KC is really good, so there is no guarantee there.

The M’s have no games remaining against the following teams ahead of them in the wild card standing: Toronto (currently in the 2nd wild card spot, but a brutal schedule to end the season), Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Detroit. All of those teams are at least 3 games up on the M’s in the standings and at least 4 up in the loss column.

It is a long road for the M’s to even think about making the playoffs and they are going to need a ton of help.

My prediction: the M’s make a brief run in the last 2 weeks of August and then fall apart, finishing somewhere around 78-84 for the season. McClendon will be looking for a new job but Zdrenzick will be safe for another year.

Bye, Bye Bloomquist

By Blaidd Drwg

The Mariners *finally* DFA’ed Lloyd McClendon’s favorite waste of at bats utility player and called up Chris Taylor, who frankly can’t be any worse than Willie and should, in theory, be at least slightly better. Bloomquist posted a 159/194/171 slash line with his usual lack of power, producing a whopping 8 OPS+ and -0.3 WAR is 72 plate appearances. While I appreciate the versatility that a guy like Bloomquist has, he is the worst kind of guy to have on a roster – an all-glove, no-hit veteran that plays multiple positions. For some reasons managers love to find ways to get these guys in the game far more often than they should, probably because most managers were the same way as players.

Now if the M’s would just do something with Mike Zunino…

Time to Hit the Panic Button

By Blaidd Drwg

I had mostly written a post about how it was time for the Mariners to hit the panic button and then the Mariners went and did it in the worst possible way – they went out and traded for Mark Trumbo, which is exactly what the Mariners did not need to do. Granted, the Mariners traded a bunch of spare parts to get Trumbo (contrary what people may say, Gabby Guerrero, Vlad’s Nephew, is probably not going to be anything beyond a 4th OFer in the majors.

David Schoenfield wraps up the Mariners issues really well in this article. Basically, the team doesn’t get on base. The team has spent most of the Zdrienick era near or at the bottom of the AL in OBP which is why this team is consistently near or at the bottom of the AL in runs scored and near or at the bottom of the standings. This is a fundamental flaw in organizational philosophy. How many hitters have the Mariners developed into all-star caliber players under Z? One – Kyle Seager, despite having multiple top 10 picks. Ackley is looking like a 4th OFer, Zunino can’t hit a curve ball and looks like he will struggle to get to .200 every season, Brad Miller is really a league average SS as a hitter, Chris Taylor looks like he is going to be the same, Nick Franklin, who was traded to TB last season is looking like a 4A player and there isn’t much hope on the horizon.

Those who know me know that I wasn’t high on the Mariners coming into 2015 – they didn’t fix their on-base issues in the offseason and they were historically good last season at preventing runs, which meant that regression in that capacity is likely. Any offense that they added was going to be offset by a bigger increase in runs allowed, which is exactly what has happened so far this season.

Back to Trumbo. The guy has power, which puts him in 30 HR territory. That is great, except that the Mariners already hit a ton of home runs. Trumbo has a career .299 OBP which is horrible. He is a terrible defensive OF (although he isn’t bad at 1B, but it seems that the Mariners are convinced that Logan Morrison is the answer there). He probably ends up as a full time DH and occasional 1B, which is probably about right for him. The other thing that Trumbo has going for him is that he hits right handed. The M’s have an incredibly left handed heavy lineup and this will help balance it out. It doesn’t solve the issue of getting on base.

While we are at it, it is past the time where Fernando Rodney is the Mariners closer. Rodney has converted 14 of 17 save opportunities, which makes him look better than he has been. He has managed to compile an ERA of near 7 and in 7 out of his last 9 save opportunities, he has given up at least 1 run. The scary thing is that he has entered every one of those games at the start of the inning with no runners on. I can’t imagine that the Mariners even remotely trust him to come in with runners on at this point, yet McClendon still says Rodney is his closer.

I figured the Mariners were an 80-83 win team this season. I am willing to bet if they finish anywhere below 81 wins, that you will see a new manager and GM for the 2016 season.

It’s Time to Change Baseball

By Blaidd Drwg

If MLB is going to insist on keeping its current configuration of 162 games and 15 teams in each league, there are a few things that they should change, and don’t worry, what they should change won’t affect the “integrity” of the game.

Change 1 – eliminate the divisions. When you have divisions, all you are doing is potentially recognizing mediocrity. Even with 2 wild card teams, the potential still exists to have a division winner having a worse record than a team that does not make the playoffs, you also have the potential of a division winner having a worse record than both of the wild card teams. That makes a huge difference since the wild card winners have to play in the “coin-toss” game (AKA the wild card game) and then get to not have home field advantage against a team with an inferior record. Granted, home field doesn’t mean much in baseball (home teams win about 54% of the time) but I think most teams would rather have it.  I am much more in favor of taking the 5 best teams in each league for the playoffs. Heck, I would even be in favor of adding another team and having the top 2 teams get a “bye” and the next 4 play a best of 3 series to advance.  It would make the positioning for the playoffs much more important, forcing teams to play more meaningful games later in the year.

Change 2 – balance the schedule. If you eliminate the divisions, it becomes a no brainer to balance the schedules in the leagues. Even with the divisions, the balanced schedule makes more sense. You don’t think that it gives a team in the NL East a competitive advantage this season to get to beat up on Philadelphia and Miami 18 times each than say the NL Central which only has Milwaukee as a whipping boy? You can never balance the interleague stuff, but it wouldn’t hurt to have all of the AL teams play each other the same amount of times each season and eliminate the imbalance of the division strengths.


Change 3 – have both leagues use the DH. This one will upset people who complain that it will ruin the “sanctity of the game” or causes less strategy in the game. To that I say bullcrap. Here is how MLB pitcher have faired over the last 4 seasons (2015 stats through May 31).


2015 .121 .144 .150 -16
2014 .122 .153 .152 -12
2013 .132 .164 .169 -6
2012 .129 .162 .166 -8


Honestly, let’s say you were faced with a situation in a playoff game where you are down 1-0, a runner on 3rd, two out in the 8th inning.  You have Felix Hernandez pitching and he is dealing – he gave up 1 hit (a HR in the first on a bad pitch) and he has retired every batter since and hasn’t had a hard hit ball against him since the HR. Let’s say you are facing elimination. Your chances of winning in the 9th aren’t good because you are facing a Marino Rivera-like closer in the 9th. What would you do? Before you answer, here is what pinch hitters have done over the last 4 seasons:


2015 .219 .292 .335 78
2014 .213 .291 .322 76
2013 .217 .292 .336 77
2012 .225 .304 .334 80


With a pitcher hitting, you have pretty much no chance that you will be tying up the game. Granted, a pinch hitter is no real guarantee, but wouldn’t you rather have someone who hits for a living up at the plate? So how does it not cause less strategy? Look at it from the other way – if you have the DH in play and don’t have to worry about the pitcher coming up at bat, you have an opportunity to deploy your pitchers more effectively in critical situations. What made Mariano Rivera so great in the post season was that the Yankees were able to utilize him in multiple innings without having to worry about his spot coming up in the batting order.  Look at the 2014 WS – the games in KC allowed both teams to deploy the 2 best bullpens in the league over a longer stretch and hit more strategic matchups than you ever would with allowing the pitcher to bat.

In addition to this, if you don’t like the 2-1 games that dominate baseball these days, putting in a DH vs a pitcher is worth about half a run a game. Wouldn’t you rather see a guy with 250/20/75 slash lines up at the plate rather than a guy who has a 100/0/0 slash line? A pitcher in the lineup generally means that you end up with effectively an 8 man lineup with an automatic out thrown in. That isn’t all that much fun to watch.

Handicapping the MLB Awards

By Blaidd Drwg

We are in MLB awards season. Yesterday we had the announcement of the AL and NL ROY, won by Jose Abreu and Jacob DeGrom. Abreu was a no-brainer and DeGrom, despite only pitching 144 innings, got 26 of the 30 first place votes over Billy Hamilton (remember him from this) and Kolten Wong, both of whom posted sub-300 OPB and sub-700 OPS. It was a weak year in the NL for rookies.

We have the Manager of the Year, MVP and Cy Young coming up this week and it should be interesting. Keep in mind that the voting is completed for all 3 of the awards on the last day of the regular season, so the playoffs have no impact. Here are my thoughts:


Manager of the Year

Predicted Winners: Mike Scioscia (AL), Bruce Bochy (NL)

I took a quick look at the ESPN 2014 predictions and virtually no one had either the Angels or the Giants winning their divisions or the wild card, so they both get the nod from me. It will be interesting to see who wins because you can make the argument than any of the 6 finalists deserve to win the award.


Cy Young

Predicted Winners: Felix Hernandez (AL), Clayton Kershaw (NL)

Let me just put this out there – Kershaw was far and away the best pitcher in baseball this year and he will be a unanimous winner. The AL is different. I actually would not have voted for Felix if I had the vote simply because he imploded in his next to last start and essentially cost the Mariners a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Neither Sale nor Kluber pitched for a contender, but here are the stats for all 3 of them:

Felix 15-6 2.14 248 0.915 236 170 6.8 9.5 5.39
Kluber 18-9 2.44 269 1.095 235.2 152 7.4 10.3 5.27
Sale 12-4 2.17 208 0.966 174 178 6.6 10.8 5.33


There is a small piece of information that I wanted to share. A day after Felix had his disastrous start in Toronto, the official scorer changed a play that was (correctly) ruled a hit to (incorrectly) be an error. That resulted in 4 ER being removed from Felix’s stats and gave him the ERA and WHIP titles. Without the scoring change, Felix essentially has the same ERA as Kluber. It is really a toss-up between Kluber and Felix though – they had virtually identical stat lines with Kluber striking out a few more hitters and Felix giving up a few less hits, but I think this will be a pretty close vote, with Felix coming out just ahead. Sale, while probably better than either Kluber of Felix this year, missed a month of the season and that will lead to him finishing third.



Predicted Winners: Mike Trout (AL), Clayton Kershaw (NL)

The NL is interesting since you have to compare 2 hitters to a pitcher. McCutchen and Stanton both had good, not great, seasons, pulling in a 6.4 and 6.5 WAR respectively. Kershaw, despite an early season injury and just under 200 IP, pulled in a 7.5 WAR. The selling point for me – the Pirates may or may not make the playoffs without McCutchen, the Marlins just suck worse without Stanton but the Dodgers don’t win their division without Kershaw.

All 3 of the AL finalists had fine seasons, but the reality is Mike Trout was just a ton better than either Michael Brantley or Victor Martinez, neither of whom are very likely to be that good next year. Besides, I had to actually look up Brantley’s stats to see how good he actually was, although I was tempted to give him points for being Mickey Brantley’s kid. The scary thing about Trout is that he is just 22 and this was a “down year” for him, posting a career low 7.9 WAR, which was still good enough to lead all of baseball.

Don’t Look Now, But The Mariners Aren’t Terrible

by A.J. Coltrane

Gene Brabender. Just because.
Gene Brabender. Just because.

Every conversation I had about the Mariners this summer seemed to go the same way:

Me: “How about those M’s.. they’re doing ok!”

Them:  “The M’s suck.”

Me:  “No, they’re really about a .500 team. They’re average.”

Them:  “Eh. I’m pretty sure they suck, or they’re going to suck soon.”

Me:  “No, the franchise has finally begun to recover from the damage that Bill Bavasi did.”

Them:  *Shrug*

(You’ll notice it was always me initiating the topic. That shouldn’t be a surprise, since I’m one of the handful of people that pays attention at all to the M’s results.)

In all seriousness though, they’re not bad. They have some good starting pitching, headlined by Felix. They have three position players that could be the base of a solid team in Cano, Seager, and Mike Zunino. The bullpen was excellent overall this year, though I always view the status of the bullpen as “transitory”.

I’ll be interested to see the Vegas line for wins next year. I’d guess it’s going to be somewhere between 78 and 83 wins. 81 wins would be .500.

That sounds about right to me.